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An excellent topic that it so much easier to discuss in the Kindle era.  There are 3 historical historians, now 10, that I know about especially relevant to this forum.

Edward Gibbon - The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.  I found his name frequently when reading about current events when I was in highschool.  Orignally in English.  By an Englishman.

Saint Gregory of Tours - A History of the Franks.  Disappointing.  Modern material is better.  Specifically, The Dark Ages and Clovis.  Originally in Latin

Seutonius - The Lives of the Twelve Caesars - this is a historical work as well and I have no idea when it was first published in English.  It dates from the 2nd century.  Originally in Latin

Herodotus - The Histories.  About ancient Greece before the fall of Athens in the Peloponnesian War.  His name is very famous and I've known it since I was a child.  His name appears in the game Civilization and its sequels along with several variations on it partly as a running gag that produces rankings in various metrics for each civilization as the game progresses.  In fact, the running gag depends heavily on how well you do.  If you do really well you'll get a list of civilizations written by Herodotus or say, Bill Clinton.  If you do badly, you get something like Ryu-odotus.   

Originally in ancient Greek

Herodotus does not claim that Etruscans came from Asia Minor.

Thucyides - History of the Peloponnesian War.  Originally in ancient Greek.

Edited by dnewhous

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Would you include Jordanes on your list? He wrote in around 551 AD Getica (De origine actibusque Getarum --The Origin and Deeds of the Getae [Goths]). Although I have not read this, it is supposed to be an excellent source of information on the Goths.







For me, the best and most readable ancient historian is Ammianus Marcellinus:





Edited by guy

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Isn't there an old Roman ethic that historians should stick to res publica or something like that?

Plutarch - Parallel Lives.  First Century.  Greece of late antiquity during the Pax Romana.  The height of the power of the Roman empire.  Plutarch is wiki'd as a biographer (Britannica as well) rather than a historian.  Originally written in Koine Greek.

Dio Cassius - The Roman History: The Reign of Augustus.  Originally written in Latin.

Peter Brown - the World of Late Antiquity.  I didn't know about this one until I wiki'd late antiquity not knowing exactly what it referred to.  He is a modern historian exploring what we call the Dark Ages.  Originally in English.

Eric H Cline - 1177 BC the year civilization collapsed - an exclamation point to the end of Mycenean Greece.  I didn't think we'd ever know exactly when it came to an end, but why not?  That would be the end of what most people consider the ancient world.  Originally in English.

Procopius - The Secret History  The story of Justinian's reign.  Originally in Koine Greek.

Ian Wood - the Merovingian Kings - covers neither Clovis I nor Charlemagne, so it's not that interesting.  It's really missing Merovich, Childeric I, Clovis I, the book as is, Charlemagne, Louis the Pious, and his 3 sons.  That puts the timeline from the namesake of the line through the end of the Carolingian Empire, in 816, as seen by the Catholic church.  Originally in English

Geoffrey of Monmouth - The History of the Kings of Britain - AFAIK this is the original story of king Arthur included.  Written in the 12th century, in Welsh.  It appears he is an Angle?  He is fighting the Saxons in Britain.  There's no Excalibur or anything really exciting.

As an added bonus, I'd like to provide the definition of history from the Encyclopedia Britannica:

History, the discipline that studies the chronological record of events (as affecting a nation or people), based on a critical examination of source materials and usually presenting an explanation of their causes.


Edited by dnewhous
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There are a few other titles that have shown up

The History of Rome - Titus Livius (Early history of Rome)

The Histories - Polybius (Third Macedonian War - with Rome)

Hannibal - Livy (History of the Second Punic War)

The Conquest of Gaul - Julius Caesar 

The -->Histories<-- Annals - Cornelius Tacitus (downfall of Nero)  this can be found under two different titles.   The Oxford version has the author's full name and I'm sure is the right title. 

The Civil Wars - Appian (through Trajan)

Remember, for a book to be legitimate, it has to have an ASIN number, an ISBN number, and maybe a CDRL (contract data requirements list) number.

ASIN numbers are broader than ISBN.  According to the wikipedia, ASIN numbers are Amazon?  I remember them older than ISBN numbers.

I think ISBN numbers are Swiss.

ICCN numbers are library of congress numbers and they are somewhat rare.  They can be accepted or rejected after being assigned a number.  Rejected books can be rejected simply on the basis of historical mispellings, like mispelling Alulim, the first king.

There is a quik I do remember about CDRL numbers.  A textbook with a CDRL number is indicative of a problematic classroom. 

A CDRL number means, otherwise, that your customer wants to catalog your work.  There is some confusion.  A request for a CDRL number from a customer means they want to pay you more money.

I don't know of any book with 3 identifying numbers that include the ICCN and not the CDRL.

I think CDRL means contract to complete by the government.  It means it's a government contract book.

You might wonder, under what conditions are accusations of Satanism fair?  When the book has a rejected ICCN number.

Looking over these books it looks like the Pax Romana wasn't much of a Pax Romana.  It looks like the civil wars didn't end until Hadrian, the 3rd of the 5 good emperors.

I would start with the History of Rome, because the Battle of Orders really shaped the world's socioeconomic structure more than anything since.  What they were missing, and I think is missing from Asian culture, is a class of people who were affluent but not wealthy.  Above middle class without the authority to dispense their own justice.  I suppose in a western sense is what it did was create the upper middle class, which is what the Clinton era gave us.  Weird jokes about teenage girls having trouble finding the keys to the family SUV were indicative of the era.

I do realize one thing Republicans would have hated about Clintonism - attractive girls were seen as a bit hoite toite.  Headbangers didn't like that.  And headbangers have a little more going for them then simply being cool.

There are an absurd number of variations for Plutarch.  What matters is Parallel Lives.  Right title, right author.

Edited by dnewhous

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Here's a summary in time order:

1177 BC - Eric H Cline (2014) This is the bridge between classical and ancient Greece.  There is a controversy over the years of the bronze age v the years of the iron age.  If you say the iron age started in 1500 BC, it's hard to describe Greece before 1177 BC.  If you say the iron age starts at 1177 BC, there is a clear division.

The Histories Herodotus of the Greco-Persian Wars (this translation first published in 1954) Written in 430 BC in the Ionic dialect of classical Greek from the Wikipedia.  Britannica calls this one "The History."

History of the Peloponnesian War Thucyides 

The History of Rome - Titus Livius The battle of orders?  Should discuss the beginning of knighthood.

Hannibal - Livy 

The Histories - Polybius (translated 2010) this is the authentic work titled "The Histories" according to Britannica.  Commensurate with the 3rd Macedonian War.

The Conquest of Gaul - Julius Caesar 

The Roman History: The Reign of Augustus Dio Cassius  The birth of Christ is here.  Also, the historical event of commissioning a census to discover the birthplace of the mother of God succeeded.  I have also heard that 93% of Europe's cities were founded, with the funding being in excess for every one.  Especially Vienna.  Vienna have tried to return their gold to Rome over 3000 times because of his decision.  The census is in Jesus of Nazareth.  The "divine Augustus" they refer to is Octavius Caesar.  The Romans agree to provide king Herod with amelioration for his people because of the effort the census.  What you need to understand is, Mary signed the role book in exactly the same alphabet that I am using to type this sentence.

The Annals - Cornelius Tacitus The Oxford version has the original author's full name and I'm sure is the right title. 

The Civil Wars - Appian 

Parallel Lives Plutarch 

The Lives of the Twelve Caesars Seutonius 

Hadrian The Restless Emperor Anthony R Birley (2000)

the World of Late Antiquity by Peter Brown (1971)

Alaric the Goth Douglas Boin (2020)

City of God by Saint Augustine (2012)  This is a historical work and not just a philosophical one

The Dark Ages by Charles Oman (2017) original publication 1898, defines the dark ages as the deposition of Romulus Augustus until the reign of Hugh Capet.  The dark ages as a historical phenomenon typically ends with the reign of Charlemagne.

Order of Antrustions by ?????  reveals the earliest Merovingian is Pharamund.

A History of the Franks Saint Gregory of Tours 

Clovis History of the Founder of the Frank Monarchy (2017)

the Merovingian Kings by Ian Wood.  This ends before Charlemagne, and is therefore nowhere near as important as it should be.

The Life of Charlemagne by Einhard.  Written contemporaneously.  Mayor of the Palace was his original adult title.  It also uses the word "accession" which is a very good word to use.  It means either inheritance of a title when your father dies or promotion by the Roman emperor himself.  But that's not a proper use of the term, the emperor is not supposed to do that.  Peerage law would probably prohibit it.  The thing is, the Merovingian kings died out.  From the names - it looks like an Ostrogothic line was chosen to inherit with Hugh Capet onwards.

Charlemagne, King and Emperor (2019) by Janet L Nelson, this one squarely confronts the notion that the Dark Ages were contemporary with Charlemagne.  

The Secret History by Procopius covers Justinian, the Sack of Rome (546) by Ostrogoths, who had helped Byzantium face Clovis I, and the construction of the Hagia Sophia.

History of the Britons (2017) originally published ???

The History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth (this translation first published in 1966) c. 1136 original publication

Alfred the Great, (king of Wessex) (1983) originally published ????

Harold - the Last of the Saxon Kings by Edward B Lytton ????

Feudalism (???) by wikipedia, publication unknown.

The Travels of Marco Polo by Marco Polo (original publication 1298, modern translation 1874)

Decameron (2015) by Giovanni Boccaccio Norton library version

Civilization of the Middle Ages (1993) Norman F Cantor.  Original edition 1963.  I swear this guy wrote for the New Republic.

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Edward Gibbon (1776) - frequently cited by The New Republic

Napolean Bonaparte by The History Hour.  This describes the coronation properly.

Altogether, 4 books on ancient Greece, 16 on Rome, 8 on France, and 4 on the United Kingdom, and 1 on the middle ages.

Order of Antrustions has little copyright information.

I've put publication dates on the more modern books.

Also, the Secret History is Greek, rather than Roman.  It's the Byzantine empire under Justinian.

Edited by dnewhous

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The History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth (this translation first published in 1966) c. 1136 original publication

Isn't this pushing the definition just a tad? Even academics in Geoffrey's time thought it was rubbish.

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The wikipedia says

He is best known for his chronicle The History of the Kings of Britain (Latin: De gestis Britonum or Historia Regum Britanniae)[1] which was widely popular in its day, being translated into other languages from its original Latin. It was given historical credence well into the 16th century,[2] but is now considered historically unreliable.


The biggest problem is that "Uther Pendragon" is the only name we know for Arthur's father and it is absurd, we don't have a real name.  I think there was a missing source.  The wikipedia shows his ancestor as Constantine III.  That may be, but that leaves a lot of people between.  Arthur isn't any earlier than 7th century.  

Edited by dnewhous

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Have you ever read it? If you get past the first chapter without falling about laughing please let me know and I'll send an ambulance.

Forget Arthur. He's an amalgam of Iron Age myths, Roman celebrities, Dark Age heroes, and Medieval romances. Uther Pendragon probably isn't any more historical, rather than a literary means to an end (although I must point out that Arthur is typically added in the late 5th and early 6th century. The 7th century is better documented via the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle thus Arthur could not have been that late - don't confuse the Once and Future King with individuals named Arthur in later centuries - there's at least nine of them)

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King of East Anglia fighting the Saxons in the 7th century.  That's not unreasonable.

Britannica does have an entry for The History of the Kings of Britain.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is by Simon Armitage - that's the historical author, and it is up again on Amazon. 

This is where things get creepy, the man who played Arthur in Camelot is Richard Armitage. 

The movie closest to Le Morte D'Arthur is Excalibur.

Edited by dnewhous

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I think the common argument, IIRC, is that Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is considered a historical antecedent and that's where the existence of king Arthur gets its legitimacy.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight the movie, does not have a kiss between hero and heroine at the end.  Maybe that's why they made Total Recall.

Had to correct, the oldest source for the UK is the Gododdin poems by Aneurin.  No need for more than one version of the Welsh poems.

The Wife of Bath from the Canterbury Tales is connected to Le Morte d'Arthur somehow and I don't remember how.  The wife of Bath is named Alison.   There is a dragon.  The dragon's name is Mercury.  Le Morte d'Arthur talks about the God Mercury? 

Edited by dnewhous

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Gawain and the Green Knight was a 14th century poem, a story, it has no historical antecedent. It follows the normal conventions of medieval romances. I also note that the British Library tells us the poem was anonymous though it may well be he was from Cheshire.

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Did the dragon eat Lancelot for betraying the king by having sex with the queen?


The character Linet is in Le Morte D'Arthur.  So I suppose that means that the movie Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is more from the first chapter of Le Morte D'Arthur.

The study of the Latin alphabet is worth some study, when I was younger it supposedly was missing a 'k' and a 'j' vis a vis our English alphabet.  Now, it is the same thing.  Iulius was Julius after all?

Harold, the Last of the Saxon Kings is the last source on world history that I find particularly inspiring to find.  It does give an alternate name for Arthur, Geraint.

Edited by dnewhous

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Lancelot is a character invented in the late twelfth century by medieval romance author Chretien Des Troyes (along with Camelot before we get that far). Chretien also invented the Grail as a fictional prop during a scene when the hero, Percival, is at the court of the Fisher-King. He died before the story was finished thus we never find out what the Grail actually was. Later writers made their own versions of the story and connected it to christian mythos to please their audiences, thus the 'Holy Grail' appears, although no such object ever existed. The Church raised no objection, seeing a pagan object find a christian place.

Geraint is a welsh word though by some to be a king of the Dumnonia who was in conflict with the Saxons of Wessex. However, it should be realised that it is also derived from a latin word meaning 'old man'. In any event, the existence of a welsh king called Geraint is not proven, and the connection with Arthur is only one of countless origin theories. 

As lovely as Arthurian myth might be to you, it is not historical and has no more reality than Robin Hood or the Kingdom of Prester John. This is why when you investigate Arthur he evaporates under scrutiny. Perhaps you haven't gotten that far, but trust me, there's nothing substantial.

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Lancelot: the Knight of the Cart by Chretian de Troyes.  This appears to be the book Camelot was based on.


I'm looking for a dragon named Mercury because there is supposed to be a tie in to the Canterbury Tales.


Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Simon Armitage does not have the character Linnet in it.

Le Morte D'Arthur by Thomas Malory is the stories that Hollywood has used.

Oh, dear. 

Bram Stoker's Dracula Hollywood reshuffling alert.  Because of that movie they decided to retitle a lot of Hollywood movies.  And one of them that fell victim was the version of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight starring Sean Connery as the green knight in Sword of the Valiant.

In Sword of the Valiant, Sean Connery makes clear he has come to steal the holy grail.  Also, this version has the classic line, "I too have lived a borrowed year."  I think it's a fall of Rome story, she's a priestess who knows the time of her people is coming to an end.

The first work of fiction is now Merlin's Shame, Carmarthen Book 1.  Lancelot is mentioned there so he does not originate with Chretian de Troyes. 

The name may remind you of the "black book of Gorthad" in the 1990 Lord of the Rings game.

The original Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is clearly the most valuable Arthur movie, and the landmark in the original movie starring Nigel Green is lost. 

According to Yvain, Arthur started at Carlisle and somehow moved to Westminster for later books. 

A 3rd huge castle is in the UK at Northumberland.  It is the place Saint Aidan lived.  It is favored by Hollywood and looks genuinely medieval rather than dark ages.

Edited by dnewhous

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